FOI reveals dozens of emails between Wisbech councillor Simon King and Fenland Council about expenses claims dating back to 2012
- Credit: Archant
An FOI by the Wisbech Standard has uncovered more than 40 emails dating back six years between council bosses and under fire Fenland Councillor Simon King - showing how he was probed on expenses claims made outside of the members allowance scheme, on personal business and for multiple journeys, it can be revealed.
The FOI shows how the former cabinet member continued to press officials to process his expenses, saying he “reserved the right to claim from Fenland District Council any underpaid mileage claims.”
It documents expenses correspondence between the former cabinet member and Fenland District Council from November 2012 to January this year.
The FOI also revealed that there had been no correspondence about the claims between Cllr King and council leaders throughout that period.
Cllr King is currently awaiting a full conduct hearing into the alleged irregularities in his claims.
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In April 2013, an email from the chairman’s secretary Sharon Smith to Cllr King states that she had to amend mileage for two journeys from 110 miles, as claimed, to 54 miles.
In December 2015, in correspondence with member services and governance officer Jane Bailey, she explains to him that they were unable to process a journey after “having confirmed with you that you were travelling to and from a personal business meeting and not on FDC business.”
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A month later, member services reiterate that “there needs to be complete transparency for all expenses claimed…as mileage can only be claimed for journeys undertaken wholly and exclusively in pursuance of council duties.”
In July 2017, member services ask for clarification again stating “over the past twelve months that your claim for a journey from Wisbech to March and to Wisbech is 26 miles, however there are a few journeys of this nature in your current claim (11 in total) which exceed this distance.”
Three months later they write: “There are also journeys from Wisbech to Cambridge and back to Wisbech where the total of miles claimed is 112. Having checked the mileage on AA route planner, the slowest route shows a return journey of 84 miles.”
In response, Cllr King writes: “I maintain that I am entitled to claim the mileage actually incurred from my home to Fenland District Council’s offices rather than the figure in the table of mileage and I will continue to claim 25 miles when I travel via Wisbech St Mary.
“However, I accept that you have been instructed to authorise payment of only 22 miles. I reserve the right to claim from Fenland District Council any underpaid mileage claims in the future.”
Corporate director, Carol Pilson, emails Cllr King in January of this year saying that a total mileage claim of 360 miles on “further analysis only equated to 290 miles - an over claim of 70 miles or £31.50.”
A similar correction is also made for a submitted total of 334 miles when figures only add up 282 miles – an increase of 52 miles or £23.40.
The email, dated January 10 2018, adds: “As stated in the Conduct Complaint, “as this is public money, it would be the expectation that, wherever possible, you would limit the cost to the public purse when executing your official duties,” therefore if there is a shorter route available, as there is in this case, the expectation is that this is the route that would be taken.”
A conduct committee at Fenland District Council earlier this month concluded that an external investigation would be carried out into the alleged irregularities about the claims, with all authorised paperwork from both parties presented.
Earlier this year a meeting was postponed after Cllr King submitted a nine-point formal complaint against the way the case has been handled.
Cllr King, who is also a Cambridgeshire county councillor, has denied all wrongdoing.